The Gray Goat cycling team is experienced.
They will tell you that much.
They will also tell you that despite their experience, they are still underdogs.
Their top-three riders have all ridden in two Little 500s, while the fourth has one Little 500 under his belt.
“I know coming in our freshman year, we really didn’t know what to expect,” junior captain Thomas Torbik said. “Being able to train and have that experience has been helpful.”
Having more experience has given each member of the team greater knowledge about the race and how to prepare for it.
In the past three years, Gray Goat had an average finish of 13. Now, they said they are trying to break into the top 10.
Junior James Welch said the biggest training change they have made since their freshman year was adding more base miles in the fall and starting to race during the summer.
They’ve changed how they train by trial-and-error.
Each member of Gray Goat joined in different, almost random, ways. Every rider had his own path to the relatively young independent team.
Ryan and Matt Kiel, who both worked at the Gray Goat bike shop in Indianapolis, started the Gray Goat team in 2008. They previously were Black Key Bull rookies and, because the team was so big, they wanted to make their own team so they could race.
Gray Goat bike shop gives the team some money, but the rest comes from alumni and T-shirt sales.
“Basically we try to scrape by with as little as possible,” Torbik said. “We don’t have as huge a budget as some teams do, so we pretty much get the minimum it takes to get in the race, which is $500, and the rest is out of our own pockets because we love what we do.”
As an independent team, funding isn’t the only disadvantage they have compared to the fraternity teams.
“The fanbase during the race is a disadvantage,” junior Brad Klingele said. “During the race, it’s built on your friends and your family and not just your brothers.”
Welch added there is less of a recruiting base to get people on their team.
They all contend these aren’t huge problems.
“Everyone else out here is riding every day,” sophomore Sam Stratton said. “And that’s what we are doing. Other than having recruits and a larger fanbase, it’s just about the same.”
Even with some disadvantages, Gray Goat was not fazed by their competition and qualified in sixth place.
“With the bigger teams, you expect them to be out front and set the pace,” Torbik said. “We can just sit in there.”
The underdogs are experienced, and with their high starting position, they are in a good spot to try to win their first Little 500 as a program.